Safety Steps

Tina Grady Barbaccia

June 1, 2011

Equipment Maintenance

PRIDE and a clearly written equipment maintenance program will keep employees safe.

by Tina Grady-Barbaccia, News/Digital Editor

When it comes to safety with equipment maintenance, it’s all about PRIDE: Personal Responsibility in Delivering Excellence.

PRIDE says Jeff Lambert, safety chairman of Knife River Corp.’s North Central Region, is what drives his company’s safety program and what should drive the safety programs at every aggregates operation. In addition, the safety program must contain policies and procedures that address the hazards of the operation, such as equipment maintenance safety, Lambert says.

Lock out–tag out is a critical component in equipment maintenance safety. “Failure to follow lock out–tag out procedures can result in the serious injury or even death of a miner, it’s that critical,” Lambert says. (For “Lock Out–Tag Out” best practices, see page 34.) But the program must be more than just written rules. It must be understood, be consistent, and be administered by a competent person. Who qualifies as a competent person?

“It’s someone who is familiar with procedures, knows and understands the hazards associated with it, and has the authority to take action,” Lambert says. “If you can have the same people on a regular basis, this helps. It is critical that anyone new to the crew or unfamiliar with the procedures be properly trained before performing work.” However, even regular, competent employees that routinely inspect and perform maintenance can become complacent. A problem or issue may never have occurred, but there is always that chance, Lambert points out.

After analyzing fatality data for the 2000-2008 timeframe, MSHA identified 12 priority standards as leading causes of fatalities within the metal/non-metal sector. Standard §56.14105 (Procedures during repairs or maintenance) is one of those 12 priority standards.

To ensure that nothing is overlooked when it comes to safety with equipment maintenance, job hazard analysis (JHA) procedures need to be established. “Written procedures for all maintenance performed are the key to accomplishing it safely,” Lambert notes. “Everyone knows how to cut a belt, or do they? Do they know how to properly replace screens or shut down a 440-amp panel?”

A JHA for equipment maintenance addresses potential hazards and eliminates shortcuts. The shortcuts may seem benign, but could cause serious injury, Lambert says. “Mechanics say that they can lift a cutting blade by themselves,” he says. “To that I say, ‘Really?’ The blades weigh 200 to 250 pounds, so we have a JHA for it. It’s pretty simple, but they are recorded as procedures.”

How can the procedures be enforced? “Through PRIDE,” Lambert says. “Top management must be visibly committed to safety, and middle management must be actively involved. They need to be out in the field and not just assuming the procedures are followed. Additionally, supervisors must be performance focused, and frontline, hourly employees must be actively participating in these safety efforts.”

For example, backup alarms, horns, wipers, brakes, and seatbelts must be operable on mobile equipment. A fire extinguisher should be on each piece of equipment and be checked to ensure it is operational.

Lambert also cautions equipment maintenance inspectors against the dangers of momentum when working on equipment. Nearly three years ago in a crushing operation, a cone crusher became plugged up. When an employee attempted to rod out the jam and couldn’t break it loose, the employee laid down on the belt underneath the crusher, Lambert remembers. “[The employee] took about a 2-foot-long piece of rod and attempted to break the material loose from inside,” Lambert recalls. The employee hit it once and the material broke loose, burying him. His personal protective equipment, or PPE, which should always be worn during equipment maintenance, may have saved his life, Lambert says.

“When the material came down, over his hard hat, he put his head down so there was enough room to breathe,” Lambert remembers. The point is, he says, “is to be aware of this momentum when performing maintenance. He could have easily been killed — suffocated. Never put yourself at risk.”

The Small Mine Office developed a series of weekly ToolBox talks that can be used by small mine operators and others to hold safety and health discussions for employees at their mining operations. These ToolBox talks were developed in consultation with members of the mining community. To get the free app, enter into your browser.

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